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6 Tips for Designing an Amazing Self-Service Portal

Self-service portal design can be a tricky process. These tips will help you create the self-service experience your customers expect.

Having a self-service customer support platform is essential in today’s digital-first world. More than half of all customers prefer to use self-service portals rather than pick up the phone and talk to someone.

Building a customer-friendly, self-service support centre is an effective and cost-efficient way to grow your business. You just have to do it right. Here are six tips to help design an amazing self-service portal experience:

1. Direct customers to your self-service site

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s true. Your support site will only be successful if customers know it exists. This can be especially challenging for established businesses needing to transition customers over to a newly launched support site.

“Your support site can only be successful if customers know it exists.”

Calls to action that send customers to your new self-service portal are the simplest way to do this is — place links to your support centre throughout your website. And if your product is online, you should add self-service links to that too. You should make it as easy as possible for your customers to find your self-service offerings.

2. Create the right self-service content

Your self-service portal is only useful if it has the answers your customers need. To help identify what content you need to create, keep and analyse the records of service calls. Your helpdesk software should allow you to create articles and other self-help content that addresses these common support requests.

Great formats to deliver self-service content include FAQs, a knowledge base with detailed product information, community bulletin boards, and videos with step-by-step instructions for resolving a problem.

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3. Keep your knowledge base up-to-date

Your knowledge base is never really ‘finished’. To get the most out of it, you need to continuously improve your articles. Plan periodic reviews of all of your knowledge base content (including images and video), and set expiration dates that force you to revisit everything you’ve created. This is especially important for FAQ content, or anything that features images or screen shots of your product.

Giving customers the opportunity to rate your content is a great way to find out what needs improvement — it shows you what content needs to be optimised, and the formats your customers prefer. You can also track which topics your customers are asking about on your other service portals. If enquiries on your other service portals concentrate on one or two topics, it might mean that the self-service information you’re providing about those topics needs to be improved.

4. Make your self-service portal easy to navigate

Once you’ve filled your self-service portal with great content, make sure it’s easy for customers to find what they’re after.

Include a search bar, and make sure every topic and article is clearly labelled and properly tagged. This will help customers find the content they need easily, whether they’re browsing or looking for something specific via the search tool. You should make sure your content is crawlable, so that it pops up in Google search results.

“Include a search bar, and make sure every topic and article is clearly labelled and properly tagged.”

Don’t forget to add links leading back to all available support channels and even include a contact form in the footer of your portal. This builds trust by making it easy for customers to escalate their help request — whether it be through email, live chat or phone — if they can’t find the answers they need from searching your self-service portal alone.

Self-service should be an extra option for customers who prefer it, rather than making customers feel like it’s their only option.

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5. Make sure your self-service portal is on-brand

You want customers to feel comfortable with your service experience. Make sure your support centre uses the same header and footer as your main website, and that the domain and subdomain are consistent (for example, ‘company.com’ and ‘support.company.com’).

Sticking to your company’s style guide also ensures consistency in tone, voice and formatting across the content on your sites — after all, this is a customer touchpoint just like your marketing and sales collateral.

If your business doesn’t have a style guide, find a public style guide online that suits your brand and your customers.

6. Optimise your support centre for all devices

More than half of all customers — and two-thirds of millennials — prefer online self-service to calling or using email. And chances are they’re going to pick up their smartphone to kick-off the search.

“66% of millennials prefer self-service over calling on the phone.”

Responsive design — meaning, no matter what size screen your site is viewed on, the content automatically reformats to fit on the screen — needs to be the standard for your product interface, your website and, of course, your self-service portal. Also be sure to integrate support into any mobile experiences that are directly part of your product or service.

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This article was updated in July 2022

Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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